Depression and the Facts

Let’s talk about the D-word. Dark, debilitating, and downright hard to deal with, facts about depression are not to be taken lightly.


The symptoms are listed below. However, an important item to remember is that the symptoms of depression often last for long periods of time. Feelings related to depression may be overwhelming and uncontrollable.

Depression and Aging:

Depression is NOT a normal part of aging or everyday life. However, aging often plays a big role in depression.

Important Notes:

Everyone experiences sadness, but not everyone experiences depression. According to the CDC, from 2009 to 2012 it was reported that about 8% of the population was depressed. Only about 3% of the population experienced severe depression but 78 % had no symptoms. However, these were only the reported cases and the number of depressed individuals may be much higher.

Depression is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness or disinterest are persistent and affect a person’s ability to complete everyday tasks and enjoy daily activities.  Depression has even been shown to affect appetite and the ability to sleep.

Everyone has bad days when they just can’t shake their mood. Feeling sad, gloomy, or disheartened is a normal part of life and is a natural response to difficult times in one’s life. But when feelings of sadness, hopelessness, loss of interest, or despondence persist for two weeks or longer, this could be a sign of major depression.

Symptoms of Depression:

The facts about depression can not be addressed without talking about the symptoms. They range from mental to the physical.

The most well-known symptoms of depression are sadness, unhappiness, emptiness, and loss of interest in daily activities that were once enjoyable (even a loss of interest in sex). However, there is a multitude of symptoms and it’s important to be able to recognize these as a potential sign of depression. Persistent feelings of hopelessness, despondency, pessimism, guilt, or worthlessness are associated with the disorder. Other signs may include angry outbursts, irritability, frustration, and restlessness.

You may know about the emotional symptoms of depression, but did you know that depression often causes many physical symptoms as well?  Someone who is depressed may experience extreme fatigue and decreased energy or tiredness. This may occur even after plenty of sleep. Actually, those who suffer from depression may sleep excessively. But on the flip side, depression also causes insomnia or interruption in sleep patterns such as waking up early in the morning. Those with depression also experience changes in eating habits, including appetite loss and overeating. This may result in weight loss or weight gain. Many people may also experience aches, and pains such as back pain, headaches, cramps, and even digestive issues.

Depression is typically thought of when someone is sad or feeling down. But many people also experience excessive guilt over things that are out of their control. They may feel agitated or anxious about events that are uncontrollable. They may be unable to shake the feeling that these situations are their fault.

Taking Action:

Sometimes medications, including antidepressants can help to break the cycle. For others, psychotherapy may help. There are several treatment options to be considered. Speaking with a psychologist or psychiatrist may help to determine the best course of action.

Antidepressants are a common treatment option that many people feel is right for them. Antidepressants are a type of medication that adjusts chemicals in the brain to improve mood. Typically, it takes at least 4 to 6 weeks before improvement is seen with medication. It’s also important for patients to continue taking their medication even after their symptoms have improved. It is also important to gradually reduce the dose if it is determined that stopping treatment is appropriate. Depending on the severity of the depression, some people may choose to first try psychotherapy, or talk therapy. Psychotherapy is often used in conjunction with medication. Two types of talk therapy include cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT and interpersonal therapy or IPT. CBT focuses on reducing negative thought patterns and IPT focuses on negative relationships that may be the cause of the depression or may be making the depression worse.

Woman are more likely to become depressed than men, and men and women typically experience the disorder differently. Woman are more likely to have feelings of sadness and guilt, while men are more likely to be irritable and lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression may be more common in women because hormones have a direct effect on brain chemistry. The changes in a woman’s hormones throughout her life can lead to depression. For example, the hormone changes during menopause put women at a higher risk for depression.

Many seniors who experience depression may be less willing to admit to their feelings and their symptoms may not be as obvious. Certain medical conditions may cause symptoms of depression. For instance, vascular depression is associated with heart disease. This constricts blood vessels and reduces the amount of blood that is able to reach the brain. Depression can also be a side effect of many medications.

It’s important to understand that depression affects people differently, and that sadness is not the only symptom of depression. Reaching out to a medical professional and receiving treatment can help alleviate the negative feelings of depression. Depression is better accepted now than in the past as treatable. It may be more difficult for a depressed person to continue their normal routine but it is important for them to “get up and get out”. By remaining active, they will dispell the feelings of depression much faster than by isolating themselves.

It is important to be alert to the facts about depression, especially in seniors. It is not something that has to be lived with, rather it is a disorder that can be overcome.